Pootle list #28: 5 of 50 road trips in India
If you want to experience some real cool vibes, party hard, eat great food from around the world, watch an evening sunset at the beach while lounging with a cold beer, and stroll in the urban localities steeped in history and charm, go to Goa.
If you want peace and quiet to recharge those batteries, breakfast in the company of brilliant blue bee-eaters (you’ll be having watermelon and pineapple while the bird will be snacking on an unfortunate wasp), spend lazy afternoons driving where fancy takes you, explore geological and historical wonders, lounge with a cold beer, eat some great regional food made entirely with red chilies, and shrug off the city-commute-daily-grind layers, go to Mangalore.
Here are my top tips to help you exhale while in Mangalore
#6 Go for a Long Drive
We spent a sleepy afternoon on the winding curves of the Kudremukh national Park. Green, cool and serene – a lovely drive in the hills. Meanwhile, down by the coast, there is a well-kept secret called the Bengre beach. The river drains into the sea at Bengre, and the drive up a long strip of land takes you the tip of the estuary. The road is flanked by the river on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other, with a scenic fringe of swaying palm trees and charming village houses ending at a cafeteria that advertises Coca-Cola. We drove up from Malpe as the sun played peek-a-boo in the clouds on its way to bed.
#5 Bow to Bahubali
As the legend goes, many millions of years ago, Bahubali meditated while standing, immobile for a year, as flowering vines grew over his body. He gained omniscience and was freed from the cycle of birth and death. There are five monolithic statues dedicated to him in the state of Karnataka. Every twelve years, the statues are bathed in curd, milk and ghee in the presence of thousands of devotees. We climbed 180 + steps up a hill in Karkala to visit the second highest sculpture (42 feet high and consecrated in 1432). As the sun approached the horizon, and a gnarled frangipani tree swayed in the breeze, SG and I received an impromptu history lesson from the residing priest at the feet of the omniscient Bahubali.
#4 Catch the Ferry to St. Mary’s Island
A set of four interconnected islands, St. Mary’s, off Malpe, is proof that Madagascar and Africa were once connected to India. A fifteen minute ferry ride, from the Malpe beach, took us to the uninhabited island. On the last ferry of the day, we were practically alone on the island wandering amongst the columnar rocks, while azure sea waves lapped against sandy coves. Top tip: go early morning (the first ferry leaves at 8:30) or in the late afternoon to escape the heat.
#3 Meditate with the Birds
SG and I are recent converts to the wonderful activity of bird watching, or meditating-with-the-birds as I like to call it. So we took our binoculars along for the trip and earned ourselves many surprises. On St. Mary’s, we caught sight of the majestic kingfisher that called to us from a nearby tree (literally minutes after I had whined to SG that I had spent all these years on earth without a close encounter with a Kingfisher). In the swampy marshes of Karkala there were storks, sand pipers and dozens of other birds standing still or fluffing their feathers amongst the lotus flowers. The most serendipitous was a giant tree by the hotel pool, where we breakfasted, which seemed to a favorite haunt of the local birds. A dozen bird species played hide and seek, perched still, flitted about and made merry while we had our banana smoothies.
#2 Pray at the Savira Kambada Basadi
On the way to Karkala, we swung by Moodbidri for the mystical thousand pillar Jain temple. We wandered through the cool carved interiors of the six-hundred years old temple, as it gently snoozed, in the still of noon with the sun blazing overhead. There are more than 1.3 billion people in India, of which about three (including SG and me) knelt on the stone floor that noon, to whisper their prayers. I heartily thanked my fellow country-men for staying away and prayed to the deity for serenity and serendipity.
#1 Sunset at the Tannirbhavi Beach
In the company of a golden sun and hundreds of egrets, we walked the length and breadth of Tannirbhavi beach. The egrets dove across the sun with their heads tucked into their shoulders, and daintily stepped across the edge of the waves. Fishing trawlers made dark silhouettes on the horizon, and the sun draped the sky with an orange blanket. The sand between my toes, the sun in my eyes, and the breeze in my hair – the perfect moment to exhale.